Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Did C S Lewis Go to Heaven?

I am redating this post from a couple of years ago. The first five comments are from 2006.

This is an essay by a Calvinist alleging that Lewis was not a Christian. This is where certain people's position leads. And I know they don't want to go there, as you can see from the combox replies from two years ago.

And no, it's not a question of whether Lewis's authority is greater that Jesus' or Paul's. My claim is that it is sometimes reasonable and faithful as a Christian to take your belief in divine goodness over your belief in biblical inerrancy. Steve said someone who says this has no clue what it means to be a Christian. My response is if that's the charge you want to make, then you have to make it against Wesley and Lewis as well as myself. I quoted these passages not to attack Calvinism or to use their authority but to show that these people were prepared to use their conception of divine goodness as a constraint on what conclusions they drew from Scripture.

You see, what Steve keeps forgetting is that he made a charge that goes well beyond the charge of committing an error. Steve had said that in making the move I make I go so far wrong as to not even know what it means to be a Christian. In other words, to not be a Christian. If someone doesn't know what it is to be a Christian, then that person can't possibly be one, just as if I have no idea what it means to be a Democrat, then I can't be a Democrat.

I am asking Steve to accept the logical conclusions of his statements or to withdraw them.

26 comments:

Mike D said...

I started reading this very long exposition but grew tired quickly. I am concerned this writer maintains that only Evangelicals go to heaven and only if they are able to fully articulate doctrines in a particular way. There is much room for questions among belivers. This approach makes the narrow way closer to a key hole.

Amy said...

Key hole? More like a opening the size of a capillary (into which red blood cells must enter one at a time). Gee, the writer almost doesn't seem to WANT anyone besides himself and a few other fundamental hyper-Calvinists to be let into heaven.

Jason said...

He's only following out the implications of what he's been taught: a particular _knowledge_ of God is what God considers the passkey for salvation (so this theory goes). Whether the passkey knowledge is broad or narrow, it's still pure gnosticism--and still a Christian heresy. (Just a very _prevalent_ Christian heresy, throughout our history.)

Paul Manata said...

I posted a post on Robbins in a Robbins-esk tone. You might enjoy it.

http://presstheantithesis.blogspot.com/2005/05/someone-needs-his-mouth-washed-out.html

Anonymous said...

The Roman Catholic writer at this link,
http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Homiletic/May1999/delusion.html, Criticises Lewis for his Calvinism!

Oh Well.

Anonymous said...

This is tiresome to read, mainly because there is no conflict between God's goodness and the veracity of scripture. Only interpretations that create conflict where there need be none.

Jason Pratt said...

Anon,

Obviously, that fellow hasn't read Joseph Pearce... {wry g}

(JP has a habit of trying to suss out the Roman Catholicism of famous Christian writers, even when they denied being RCs. He wrote a slightly infamous book on the topic of Lewis' Catholicism a few years ago. I was as kind as I could be in my Amazon review, but really...)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Victor: {{My claim is that it is sometimes reasonable and faithful as a Christian to take your belief in divine goodness over your belief in biblical inerrancy.}}

Or, to take one's belief in divine goodness over an interpretation of inerrant scripture (unless one believes in an inerrant interpretation of scripture such as the RCCs. But last I heard, that was one of those things we Protestants were Protesting against, Calvin included. {g})

JRP

Paul Manata said...

"My claim is that it is sometimes reasonable and faithful as a Christian to take your belief in divine goodness over your belief in biblical inerrancy. Steve said someone who says this has no clue what it means to be a Christian. My response is if that's the charge you want to make, then you have to make it against Wesley and Lewis as well as myself. "

Victor, as I've pointed out *twice*, now, your Wesely quote *does not* show a belief in errancy. Wesley *didn't* say, "Well, yes, the text does indeed say what you are saying it does, but so what?, the text is in error."

Wesley *did* say, "Whatever the text says, it *can't* say what you think it says."

And, Wesley said that *precisely because *he did* believe in inerrancy.

So, your Lewis quote is the only one you have backing you on the inerrancy issue.

Now, let's say that it *is* "sometimes reasonable and faithful as a Christian to take your belief in divine goodness over your belief in biblical inerrancy." This presupposes (a) you have better arguments than the inerrantists, and (b) that what you are *saying* isn't good *really isn't* good. I spent at least 6 posts devloping and defending a theodicy, and at least the same amount throwing the PoE back on you (using your own assumptions).

So, I have given you *defeaters* for your *claims*. It is *not* rational to hold a position that has defeaters that you are aware of without defeating the defeaters in some way.

Lastly, you are treating your "moral intuitions" as a "Trump." I didn't know you were a Trumper! :-)

Bert Power said...

Have we forgotten that CSL did see truth in the doctrine of predestination? I think Manata might be more receptive to his actual view.

He thought there was truth in Predestination (see a letter—which, unfortunately I cannot now find--in which he compared its truth and difficulties to the view of light as a wave and a particle), but thought it was dangerous to talk of such questions “Because all answers deceive. If ye put the question from within Time and are asking about possibilities, the answer is certain. The choice of ways is before you. Neither is closed. Any man may choose eternal death. Those who choose it will have it. But if ye are trying to leap on into eternity, if ye are trying to see the final state of all things as it will be (for so ye must speak) when there are no more possibilities left but only the Real, then ye ask what cannot be answered to mortal ears. Time is the very lens through which ye see-small and clear, as men see through the wrong end of a telescope-something that would otherwise be too big for ye to see at all. That thing is Freedom: the gift whereby ye most resemble your Maker and are yourselves parts of eternal reality. But ye can see it only through the lens of Time, in a little clear picture, through the inverted telescope. It is a picture of moments following one another and yourself in each moment making some choice that might have been otherwise. Neither the temporal succession nor the phantom of what ye might have chosen and didn't is itself Freedom. They are a lens. The picture is a symbol: but it's truer than any philosophical theorem (or, perhaps, than any mystic's vision) that claims to go behind it. For every attempt to see the shape of eternity except through the lens of Time destroys your knowledge of Freedom. Witness the doctrine of Predestination which shows (truly enough) that eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real; but at the price of removing Freedom which is the deeper truth of the two.” (The Great Divorce)

Perhaps, then, the worst thing we can do as Christians is make a great schism about something where, in an eternal sense, we are both right.

Bert Power said...

More on CSL's confluence of freedom and predestination:

The Great Divorce:

"witness the doctrine of predestination which shows (truly enough) that eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real"

Perelandra:

"Predestination and freedom were apparently identical. He could no longer see any meaning in the many arguments he had heard on this subject."

Paul Manata said...

Bert,

I was specifically speaking to the point of inerrancy and the moral objection Victor has been making.

Bert Power said...

Paul,

I understand. The point I'm trying to make, however, is that I'm not sure CSL wasn’t a ‘practical’ inerrantist.

He thought, for example, that the book of Jonah was likely not historically accurate but nevertheless revealed great mythological truth and was never meant to be a historical book. My argument is that in the same way he thought that what Calvin saw as the basis of the doctrine of predestination were truthful verses; however, he thought that they attempted to show eternal truth through a temporal lenses and were thus not as simple as they are often portrayed. He repeatedly uses the analogy of a Flatlander attempting to understand a cube to depict are attempts at understanding the Trinity, and I think it is apt here as well. For “Flatlanders, attempting to imagine a cube, would either imagine the six squares coinciding, and thus destroy their distinctness, or else imagine them set out side by side, and thus destroy their unity.” (The Poison of Subjectivism). Thus we, attempting to imagine eternity from a temporal perspective, will either miss the fact “that eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real” (The Great Divorce) or “Freedom: the gift whereby ye most resemble your Maker and are yourselves parts of eternal reality” (The Great Divorce) because they are incompatible in a temporal framework.

Lewis did admit that he would choose goodness of inerrancy, but I do not believe he thinks that it has or will ever come to this. I thus think the schism here is less distinct than it seems.

Bert

Bert Power said...

In other words, I think this perhaps emasculates BOTH a strict Calvinism and the moral argument against it. Maybe we're both wrong and need to readjust our arguments.

Or at least I am positing that Lewis would likely think so.

Perhaps Calvinism needs to make room for open freedom of choice combining with it in a multi-dimensional way mystical to us earthlings. And perhaps those on Reppert's side of the debate need to make room for Predestination even if it is hard to comprehend.

This is what I think CSL did in a brilliant addition to Chestertonian Orthodoxy.

Timmo said...

I find myself unable to really grasp what motivates belief in Biblical inerrancy, or what might stand behind the claim that one cannot be a Christian -- a follower of Christ -- unless one accepts the Scriptures as completely inerrant. (I am taking the inerrancy idea to be this: if the Scriptures are properly understood/interpreted, then they contain no false statements.)

The Scriptures are human records of, and testimonies to, divine activity in the world. The Gospels bear historical witness to the person of Christ. It is important to remember that these documents were penned by particular, fallible human beings in particular historical contexts. They are are not the everlasting, perfect Word of God. Only Christ Himself is the perfect expression of God. The Scriptures are no more the Word of God than my class notes are the words of my professors!

Imagine that archaeologists discovered a magical mirror lost in some ancient ruins. This magical mirror has the remarkable property that it can show the viewer any historical event that is asked of it. Historians are very excited by this! It turns out that the mirror is seen to be very reliable, and over time comes to be taken to be authoritative by scholars. Whenever the mirror displays history in a manner which contradicts other historical evidence, the mirror is taken to defeat the other evidence.

Now, it comes about that questions about Jesus and the Apostles begin to be asked of the mirror. To the horror of some, the mirror shows some events as unfolding differently from the account of those events in the Scriptures. What should we do!? Should Christians necessarily dig in their heels and decry the magical mirror as a demonic concoction, a clever trick to lead people away from Christ? Sola Scriptura! Or should we try to experiment with the mirror and try to better determine the conditions under which the mirror works reliably? Or, perhaps, should we take the mirror's images as powerful evidence against what is written in the Bible?

It seems to me that it is impossible to say a priori how we should judge what the magical mirror shows. However, if one holds that the Scriptures are inerrant, then one must believe whatever the Scriptures say come what may, for nothing can count as evidence against an infallible source. (While things might count as evidence against our interpretation of the text, there are limits to what kinds of interpretations are reasonable: there are constraints on possible interpretations!) It seems better, indeed more faithful, to be open to what the mirror might show.

To me, Christianity means devotion to Jesus. If that's right, then it can not be a necessary condition of being Christian that the Scriptures are taken to be inerrant. That borders on devotion to the Scriptures, not to Jesus! The Gospels bear no significance beyond the fact that they allow us to vicariously experience the historical reality of Jesus.

Bert Power said...

I agree and that is basically my point. CSL said that given a conflict between the living word and the written word he'd take the living, but I don't think he saw a conflict. Obviously there are some things in Scripture that are vital to the Christian faith, but not everything. I think CSL quoted "what to thee? follow thou me" repeatedly for this reason.

Bert Power said...

I should have said "salvation" rather than "the Christian faith." I suppose, in a sense, it could all be vital to the faith.

Jason Pratt said...

Bert,

Incidentally (or perhaps not-incidentally), the quote from TGD is put into the mouth of George MacDonald--the orthodox (and/or evangelical {g}) universalist whom Lewis regarded as his teacher. (Unlike pseudo-MacD's acceptance of annihilationism in TGD, this statement is more accurate to MacD's beliefs.)

In both cases quoted (pseudo-MacD from TGD, and the quote from the epiphany scene near the end of Perelandra), the views of freedom and predestination synch up with Lewis' neo-Boethicist notion of God acting at right angles (so to speak) to natural history.

The most detailed explication of this can be found in Appendix B of MaPS 2nd edition; though perhaps the most famous version (strictly speaking) would be from one of the Screwtape Letter entries, #27:

"You [Wormwood, Screwtape's nephew, assigned to tempt a fictional version of Lewis], being a spirit, will find it difficult to understand how he [the fictional version of Lewis] gets into this confusion [i.e. whether an answered prayer was "going to happen anyway" and so is no evidence in favor of prayers actually being granted]. But you must remember that he takes Time for an ultimate reality. He supposes that the Enemy [i.e. God], like himself, sees some things as present, remembers others as past, and anticipates others as future; or even if he believes that the Enemy does not see things that way, yet, in his heart of hearts, he regards this as a peculiarity of the Enemy's mode of perception--he doesn't really think (though he would say he did) that things as the Enemy sees them are things are they are! If you tried to explain that mens' prayers today are one of the innumerable coordinates with which the Enemy harmonizes the weather of tomorrow, he would reply that then the Enemy always knew men were going to make those prayers and, if so, they did not pray freely but were predestined to do so. And he would add that the weather on a given day can be traced back through its causes to the original creation of matter itself--so that the whole thing, both on the human and on the material side, is given 'from the word go.'

"What he ought to say, of course, is obvious to us: that the problem of adapting the particular weather to the particular prayers is merely the appearance, at two points in his temporal mode of perception, of the total problem of adapting the whole spiritual universe to the whole corporeal universe; that [God's action of] creation in its entirety operates at every point of space and time, or rather that their kind of consciousness forces them to encounter the whole, self-consistent creative act as a series of successive events.

"Why that creative act leaves room for their free will is the problem of problems, the secret behind the Enemy's nonsense about 'Love.' How it does so is no problem at all; for the Enemy does not foresee the humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them doing so in His unbounded Now. And obviously to watch a man doing something is not to make him do it." (Screwtape Letters, pp 127-128, Macmillan, 1982. Italics original to the text. Some paragraph breaks added for clarity, and some Americanized spelling.)


I don't quite recall what Victor has been positively accepting on his side of the predestination debate (per se), but I'm entirely sure that this is what I been advocating in my own comments, btw. {s} Insofar as a Calv or Arm proponent (or Kath, for that matter!), either one, argues for omniscience and corollaries thereof, where God is presented as having the kind of perception Lewis is arguing against here, then I complain (and have always done so) that such a position is counter-orthodox.

But insofar as a Calvinist (or Arminian, either one) rigorously keeps to a top-down right-angle version of omniscience and 'predestination' (the term would be incorrect, strictly speaking, but then so is the spatial analogy language I'm using for description instead--as Lewis notes in the MaPS appendix), then I can have no complaints of that sort: for then the Calvs, or Arms, are working with a rigorously orthodox notion of omniscience and predestination (so-called).

JRP

Paul Manata said...

I think I've clarified my argument from inerrancy as it applies to this debate.

Victor wanted to know of it would be rational for a person to believe that the text taught Calvinism but held that Calvinism was false.

Well, say that person holds to inerrancy. If a person thinks that: whatever the text teaches, it cannot be in error, **and also** claims: "this text is teaching Calvinism, but is in error," then, given this persons set of beliefs, he *is* irrational.

I then said, perhaps the person believes in inerrancy but claims that the text *does not* teach Calvinism. Okay, then he is not irrational (at least internally - following Plantinga here). But in *this case* the moral argument is merely window dressing. For a Christian who believes in inerrancy, and believes some doctrine is not taught in Scripture, has *sufficient* reasons to disbelieve the teaching.

Now, take a person who doesn't believe in inerrancy. He can be internally rational for not believing Calvinism because if the best argument for Calvinism is exegetical, and if the text is errant, then who cares if the text teaches it? An error is an error. In *this case* you don't need the moral arguments either.

I'm simply trying to get Victor to be clear in his objections to me so I can better answer him. None of my arguments have assumed that you have to hold to inerrancy, or that you can't be a Christian if you don't hold to inerrancy, or that inerrancy is the case (even if I *believe* all of this, I haven't *argued* it).

Now, I have pointed out that it is perfectly rational for a person who believes in inerrancy to have a defeater-deflector for Victor's argument. If one believes that the text is inerrant, and so that if it teaches T, then T is true, then if something else, especially a fallible moral intuition, says ~T, then ~~T. This has been used to show the *internal coherence* of the believer in inerrancy in denying Reppert's moral intuition. So, *given his beliefs,* this is how one could *rationally* defeat an objection from moral intuition. You cannot defeat this objection de jure, then. The de jure is not separate from the de facto.

Bottom line is that every where Victor has wanted to go, I have tried to give him a reasonable answer. I even played his philosophers game and presented some arguments from my side which is accepted in broad philosophical circles. Victor continually refuses to engage these posts and arguments of mine and continually appeals to his "trump" - his moral intuition. I attacked that argument at least 5 different ways. So his moral argument has defeaters for it, and I don't see how a re-appeal to his intuition is a defeater-insulator/deflector/defeater to my arguments, given their nature.

Jason Pratt said...

Timmo: {{To me, Christianity means devotion to Jesus. If that's right, then it can not be a necessary condition of being Christian that the Scriptures are taken to be inerrant. That borders on devotion to the Scriptures, not to Jesus!}}

Agreed. Which is precisely why, in Reflections on the Psalms (at least), Lewis specifically rejected being a scriptural inerrantist.

That being said, even an inerrantist can recognize a distinction between scriptures being inerrant and interpretation of scriptures being also, in principle and in fact, inerrant. (Perhaps not-incidentally, I pointed this out months ago when we were debating that infamous Nivlac analogy from Thomas Talbott: the peasant woman isn't rejecting scriptural authority or even scriptural inerrancy. She's rejecting Nivlac's interpretation--and is doing so based on what she finds taught in the scriptures.)


For what it's worth, Paul, I agree about the logical invalidity (if not, strictly speaking, the non/ir-rationality) of a person who a.) believes the scriptures are inerrant; b.) believes the scriptures end up teaching Calvinism doctrines mutually exclusive to distinctive doctrines of Arminianism or universalism; and c.) that the teaching is nevertheless false. A person who is trying to hold to all three positions has to be logically fudging somewhere.

JRP

Bert Power said...

JRP--

Thank you for "then I can have no complaints of that sort: for then the Calvs, or Arms, are working with a rigorously orthodox notion of omniscience and predestination (so-called)."

And Paul's "I'm simply trying to get Victor to be clear in his objections to me so I can better answer him" is rigth on too in my estimation.

Am I the only one seeing a lot of vitriol of very little disagreement. I don't even know where the disagreement is anymore.

Do the Triabloguers reject CSL's 'predestination' as necessarily inaccurate? If they do, how so? Can we debate that instead?

I really don't think VR would disagree with the logical sequences either; I think he'd take Pratt's position on the whole bit.

Mike Darus said...

Bert:
"(While things might count as evidence against our interpretation of the text, there are limits to what kinds of interpretations are reasonable: there are constraints on possible interpretations!)"

I graduated from Moody Bible Institute and Denver Seminary (I mention this to clarify my understanding of inerrnacy). Innerancy is not a doctrine that determines salvation. It was never intended to be this kind of test. It should be considered more as method of biblical interpretation (hermeneutic). The brand of inerrancy that sometimes appears on the web is nothing like the thoughtful version described in the Chicago Declaration. This version gives room for even considering Job and Jonah and even Ruth and Esther as parables or genres that do not require absolute historicity. As I read C.S. Lewis' reservations about inerrancy listed in this article, all of them conform with inerrancy as I understand it.

Inerrancy is a reaction to the often heard statement, "You can prove anything from the Bible." It is an attempt to refute this statement by providing limits to reasonable interpretation.

Victor Reppert said...

Paul: Would you agree, or not that this is coherently possible.

1. S believes that inerrancy is true.
2. S believes that, from the perspective of exegetical evidence alone, Calvinism is more probable than not.
3. S believes that Calvinism is false.

It looks to me that this is coherently possible. That is, one could be convinced that exegetical evidence makes Calvinism more likely than not, but still thinks on the basis of his total evidence that Calvinism is nonetheless false.

It seems to me that this is possible, although you said in one post that this couldn't be true of a truly Berean Christian who searches the Scriptures to see if these things are true.

Exegesis is a type of human reasoning, even if it is reasoning about an inspired text. Moral philosophy is another type of human reasoning. I believe pretty strongly in the strong fallibility of even our best biblical interpretation.

I'm afraid some people are going to be very disappointed in my main biblical argument against Calvinism: that the broad overall thrust of Scripture undermines Calvinism, even if specific passages might seem to support it. This sort of thing is admittedly a judgment call. To hear some Calvinists talk about their exegetes, one would think that exegesis is some sort of hard science, which of course it is not.

The claim is that I am surer that an adequate conception of divine goodness excludes Calvinism than I am that inerrancy is true. One could be an inerrantist

Paul Manata said...

"Victor Reppert said...
Paul: Would you agree, or not that this is coherently possible.

1. S believes that inerrancy is true.
2. S believes that, from the perspective of exegetical evidence alone, Calvinism is more probable than not.
3. S believes that Calvinism is false."


Victor, note that this would imply

4. S believes that Calvinism *is not* taught in the Bible.

So, that's *all you need* if you're a Bible-believing inerrantist. If you believe that X is not taught in the Bible, that's sufficient to disbelieve it.

I also have practical questions about the relationship between 2 and 3. I'm not sure how it would play out. Presumably, the person has studied the issue out enough to say that it looks like the Bible is indeed teaching Calvinism.

If the Bible *is indeed* teaching Calvinism, and one is committed to believing what the Bible teaches, and one is an inerrantist, then why would (3) enter in?

Perhaps the person has just been presented one side of the argument. Maybe she's a new Christian. She says, "Well that case looks strong, but I'm not committed. I'll look into it." Given that scenario, (3) is fine. But eventually she, desiring to believe what was revealed by *God*, to conform her thoughts to his, to think his thoughts after him, will come down on one side of the debate.

But notice that as long as she holds that (3) is *true* she *is claiming* that the Bible *does not* teach Calvinism, though she is open to studying it out.

So, it is coherent because she believes that the Bible does not teach Calvinism.

I don't know what you mean by the "exegetical evidence" versus the "total evidence." Seems to me that if you believe that X is *inerrant* then all the ~ X's in the world, derived from errant sources, can't be enough to overturn X, for you. As the Apostle Paul said: "Let God be true though all men are liars."

Now, someone might, given *other* evidence (and, presumably, other exegetical considerations too) pull Wesley's move. And in that case they will believe that the text *does not* teach Calvinism. Maybe they'll consign themselves to ignorance. Fine. That may be irrational. Or lazy. Or it may be fine in some instances. The scenario would have to be spelled out more fully.

You brought up J.P. Moreland and his belief in the scientific evidence of an old earth. What Moreland *does not* do is claim: "The text teaches one thing, but I believer another." You can bet that Moreland would disbelieve the scientific evidence if a young earth view was the clear, intended, undeniable meaning of the text (for him).

Take Kurt Wise. He's a Harvard trained paleontologist. Obtained his Ph.D. under Gould. Smart guy, right? He's a young earth guy. He does believe that there is evidence for a young earth. But, as Dawkins loves to point out, Wise also said that he would believe in a young earth even "if all the evidence in the universe turns against [it]." Is that irrational? Not in the least. Not internally, at least. Perhaps Wise has some sort of cognitive malfunction? I assume we're leaving that aside. You see, since Wise believes that X is inerrant, then all the errant ~Xs can't "trump" X, for Wise.

"I'm afraid some people are going to be very disappointed in my main biblical argument against Calvinism: that the broad overall thrust of Scripture undermines Calvinism, even if specific passages might seem to support it."

But the broad thrust of Scripture is made up of a bunch of passages that have to be exegeted properly.

And, what you said *isn't* an argument. You're trying to give now a *systematic theology* argument, i.e., what does the whole Bible say about X? But of course you have to *show your work*. No free lunches. I'm prepared to engage the systematic and exegetical debates, though. I've read the Bible too. I think the large picture undermines your view and supports my view. This is why people debate.

But at the end of the day, Victor, if you're telling me that you have done your homework (which is the responsible thing to do when publicly critiquing any position, right?), and you're convinced that Calvinism is not taught in the Bible - despite some minor appearances, I can respect that. If you have *biblical* reasons for why you don't believe that something is taught in the *Bible*, then, though I may disagree, I can respect that.

What you can't do, as a *Bible* believing Christian, is say: "I believe in inerrancy, I believe the Bible teaches Calvinism, but I *still* am not going to believe it." Or, what you can't, or shouldn't, do is say: "I've never studied this issue, I don't know what the text teaches, but Calvinists shouldn't believe in Calvinism because of my moral intuitions." Especially so when people undermine those intuitions and also show you that you believe things contrary to your own moral intuitions.

At any rate, I'll assume that you can now see how we can answer you. For if you're going to admit that if someone believes in inerrancy, then he has good reason to believe what is inerrantly taught. If the Calvinist believes in inerrancy, and believes that Calvinism is taught, and God's goodness is taught, then you can see how they can rightly deny your argument strictly from moral intuition. Because if they are right, you *have to be* wrong. If they are right God *is* good and God *has* reprobated some.

So, can you grant that? Can you grant that (if you're going to allow inerrancy) if our interpretation of the texts of Scripture are true then God *is* good and God *has* reprobated some?

Thus if our exegesis is correct, and the Bible is infallible, the Calvinist can rationally and with warrant believe that God is both good and a reprobater. We can use the general "greater good" theodicy to defend Christianity (since *if* our exegesis is correct, then our position *just is* biblical Christianity) against atheological arguments, and the insights from skeptical theist arguments to undermine any "noseeum" inference the atheist might make. So, we have a fully defensible position. You may not agree with it, but taking *everything into account* it is a perfectly defensible and rational position.

Besides that, I think that you must, every Bible-believing Christian must, hold things that violate some people’s moral intuitions. I think I argued well-enough to show you that all Christians can’t keep answering the “why” question with respect to the problem of evil. I think your very assumptions (e.g., about determining evil when you could stop it) can be tossed right back at you (e.g., about permitting evil when you could stop it). Any *human* who allowed a child to be molested when he could stop it with no loss of his own, would be morally blameworthy. I also can’t even begin to see how the simple answer, “No, it’s all okay, you see, cause ‘free will’ is such a good gift we just have to put up with child rape for that good” is satisfactory. It’s not clear or obvious to me.

So, Victor, I hope you can at least walk away from this debate understanding our position a bit better. Seeing the better arguments to give *us* if you want to persuade *us* to adopt another position. The way you have gone about debating Calvinism is, at best, only good enough to get some “Amen!”s from your side of the bleachers. It’s not conducive to *debate*, though. I hope you can see we’re not the evil, blood-thirsty mongrels some paint us as being. We are concerned with God’s goodness and love. That’s why we develop theodicies. We don’t want to believe in a god who we think is evil and can only sleep at night by saying, “Well, but that’s what the Bible says.” We seek to submit ourselves to God. To conform our categories to his. He *is* good. If we are *correct* about what is “good,” then God could not violate it. His good is really our good. If he calls white what we call black, that’s only because we are *mistaken* about what is *really* black. And, I think it is the height of irrationality to stand up to a being that is: all knowing, all-wise, and all-good, and tell him, “No, you’re *wrong* about what you call white.” If it is irrational for a 5 year old child to argue with his parent (who supposedly loves him and wants to lead him down the right path) about whether drinking bleach would go good with his pancakes, how much more is it irrational for his to argue with God?

But if the text doesn’t teach Calvinism, if God told us that it were false, then we’d be wrong. To be sure. It’s arguments like that that are most interesting to the Calvinist.

Blessings!
PM

Dmitry Chernikov said...

Paul, it is our human job to justify God's ways to men. I seem to remember Aquinas arguing in his commentary on Job that God's dignity was no impediment to Job's questioning God's actions. Truth is what matters, etc.

Paul Manata said...

Dmitry,

No, that's not my "job".

Victor wanted a theodicy. I gave him one.

I suppose I could have said: "Well, it's not my job to justify God. What he does is right. So there."

But, and I'm sure Victor would agree, that would earn me all sorts of flak.

So, when I resort to "that's what the Bible teaches" I get charged with "trumping" and when I resort to answering the philosopher on philospher grounds I get charged with "trying to do another's job."

It's a no win! :-)